October 8, 2015

SpaceX Can't Dodge Layoff Class Action, But Trims Sister Suit (Source: Law360)
A California judge on Wednesday refused to end a putative class action alleging SpaceX laid off hundreds of workers last year without a state-mandated warning and shorted their final paychecks, agreeing only to cut a fraud claim from a related suit. The two suits both contended that SpaceX had ordered the mass layoffs of between 200 and 400 workers in July 2014 without giving advance notice to them, in violation of California's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. (10/7)

NASA Tests Crew Exit Strategy for Orion (Source: NASA)
When astronauts come home in Orion from deep-space missions, they’ll need a strategy for a safe and efficient exit. At NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, teams are performing a series of tests Oct. 6-8 to evaluate the most efficient way for astronauts to get out of the spacecraft after weeks or months away from Earth.

During the three-day testing, personnel are simulating arriving to a spacecraft floating in the Pacific Ocean and what it will take to assist the crew as they exit. They will also evaluate the layout of equipment inside the spacecraft that affects exit and the gear used during the recovery process. (10/7)

Orbital ATK Books Second Atlas Launch From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Orbital ATK took advantage of a delayed weather satellite mission to book its second Atlas launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft. That launch, scheduled for March, uses a launch slot originally assigned to the GOES-R weather satellite, whose launch has been delayed to late 2016. Orbital plans to resume launches of its Antares rocket for Cygnus missions in May. (10/7)

Missile Warning Satellite Added to List Available for SpaceX Launch Bids (Source: Space News)
A missile warning satellite will be included in upcoming EELV-class launch competitions. Most of the missions being set aside for competition between ULA and SpaceX are for GPS satellites, but one mission will be for a Space Based Infrared System mission warning satellite, and another for payload identified only as Air Force Space Command 9. Proposals for the first of those missions, a GPS 3 satellite, are due next month. (10/7)

NASA to Announce CubeSat Launch Contract Winners (Source: NASA)
NASA will announce next week the winners of launch contracts awarded last week. NASA said Wednesday that it will hold a press conference Oct. 14 to discuss the contracts it awarded for Venture Class Launch Services, covering the dedicated launch of cubesats. According to procurement documents, NASA awarded contracts Sept. 30 to Firefly Space Systems, Rocket Lab and Virgin Galactic, with a total value of about $17 million. (10/7)

SECAF Now is DOD's Principal Advisor for Space (Source: USAF)
The Secretary of the Air Force is now formally the Defense Department's principal advisor for space. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work named Deborah Lee James to the newly-created position, formerly known as the executive agent for space, in a memo this week. The revised position gives James greater oversight of Defense Department space activities. The announcement was not unexpected, as a draft memo announcing the appointment circulated last month. (10/7)

Mars Obiter Could Link to Sample Return Mission (Source: Space News)
A Mars orbiter mission NASA is studying for the early 2020s could play a role in a broader sample return effort. The orbiter, planned for launch as soon as 2022, would serve primarily as a telecommunications relay and carry some science instruments. The orbiter could also carry mechanisms to capture samples lofted from the Martian surface by an ascent vehicle, preparing them for transport to Earth. There is no budget yet for that orbiter, and NASA requested no funds for it in its 2016 budget proposal. (10/7)

Spaceport Colorado Submitting FAA License Application This Month (Source: Flight Global)
A Colorado airport plans to submit its application for an FAA spaceport license this month. The director of Front Range Airport, near Denver, said the airport expects to have its application completed and submitted to the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation this month, starting a 180-day review period. The airport hopes to attract spaceplane operators, but acknowledges potential challenges in operations given that Denver International Airport is only several kilometers away. (10/7)

ISS Cubesat Deployer Hits Another Snag (Source: SpaceRef)
The deployment of this week's final two Cubesats from the Kibo lab module is on hold today. More Cubesats were released overnight and this morning from a deployer mechanism attached to the Kibo lab module. However, the final pair of Cubesats failed to deploy today due to interference with a latch on the deployer. Payload controllers are investigating the issue to determine a future release date of the Cubesats. This week's Cubesats due for release included 14 Dove sats from Planet Labs and two European Cubesats. (10/8)

NASA Tournament Lab to Collaborate on Human Habitation in Space (Source: Space Daily)
The global innovation firm NineSigma announced two Innovation Challenges they will run for NASA Tournament Lab; the Space Suit Textile Testing Challenge in collaboration with the Advanced Space Suit Project team and the In-Situ Materials Challenge in collaboration with the Kennedy Space Center and Swamp Works. The challenges leverage open innovation, advancing visionary aspirations for life in space, and interplanetary travel.

The Space Suit Textile Testing Challenge, which launched on October 5, 2015, seeks to develop standard test methodologies for assessing the wear performance of environmental protection garment (EPG) textiles for planetary exploration and offers three prizes of $5,000 for winning submissions. (10/8)

Where to Look for Life (Source: Space Daily)
Powerful telescopes are coming soon. Where exactly shall we point them? Astronomers with the University of Washington's Virtual Planetary Laboratory have created a way to compare and rank exoplanets to help prioritize which of the thousands discovered warrant close inspection in the search for life beyond Earth.

The new metric, called the "habitability index for transiting planets," is introduced in a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal by UW astronomy professors Rory Barnes and Victoria Meadows, with research assistant and co-author Nicole Evans. (10/8)

Dream Chaser Preparing for Second Free-Flight Test and First Orbital Test (Source: SNC)
In anticipation of a second phase of flight testing, Sierra Nevada Corp. has announced significant updates to two Dream Chaser spacecraft currently in development. The spacecraft are the atmospheric engineering test article (ETA) and the advanced composite orbital vehicle, which when tested will undergo a suborbital and orbital flight regimen, respectively.

“The SNC team is readying the ETA in order to begin the second phase of atmospheric flight testing early next year and our strategic partner, Lockheed Martin, is leveraging best practices in tooling and composites to manufacture the first orbital Dream Chaser spacecraft,” said Mark. N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president, SNC’s Space Systems. “Both efforts have been ongoing simultaneously and we are very pleased with the progress to date.” (10/7)

Google’s $30m Race to the Moon is Ready for Lift-Off (Source: TNW News)
Israeli non-profit space exploration company SpaceIL has announced that it’s become the first company to successfully deliver a launch contract in pursuit of Google’s $30 million lunar XPRIZE payout. Google has supported the lunar XPRIZE initiative since 2007 to try and spur “a new era of affordable access to the moon and beyond.”

In order to nab the $20 million first prize, a team needs to land a privately funded rover on the moon that’s capable of transmitting HD video and images back to earth, and that can travel at least 500 meters. Teams also have to prove that 90 percent of their funding came from private sources to qualify. The second team to successfully complete the challenge will get a $5 million prize, and the rest of the cash is split across other smaller challenges. (10/7)

Infographic: NASA's Upcoming Exploration Missions (Source: Futurism)
Click here for an infographic describing 11 upcoming NASA missions. (10/7)

Buzz Aldrin: 'Earth Isn't the Only World for Us Anymore' (Source: Aol)
Since the Apollo 11 landing in July 1969, I have had a long-held belief that Earth isn't the only world for us anymore. In my view, we must all strive for a continuously expanding human presence in space. Secondly, I see America's global leadership role in space as one that that translates into it being a global "team player" for space. That includes the U.S. collaborating with India, China, South Korea and other spacefaring nations to strengthen an American-led international permanence on the planet Mars. (10/6)

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